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Book Extract – “Modern Day Lie Detection” by Anne-mari Van Staden


Discovering lies as a human being begins shockingly early in life.
What are we teaching our children? The answer is disgracefully, the same we were taught by our parents…white lies are acceptable.

Our parents teach us to lie as they teach us to walk, read and ride a bike. It is a natural occurrence and socially acceptable behaviour. By the time you reached the age of two, you have been lied to hundreds of times by people you trust and look up to as an example. Lying becomes part of your life. By the age of 10 it even becomes the conventional norm.What are we teaching our children? The answer is disgracefully, the same we were taught by our parents…white lies are acceptable.

An example of discovering lies at an early age is the realization that the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause is fictional. Another example might be the abundant use of: “everything is going to be okay…”we so often heard from our parents.

Now imagine a life where nobody lied…

Example 1

(Sunday morning after church at the nearby shop)

Customer at the grocer: “Morning how are you?”

Employee at the grocer: “Horrible, my husband had a fight with his mother this morning and my washing machine broke yesterday. How are you?”

Example 2

Mother in law: “Do you like my new hair colour?”

Daughter in law: “No, it’s horrid; you are old enough to stop colouring it. It would suit you much better grey.”

Example 3

(One morning before school)

Child: ”Mom, what is wrong?”

Mother: ”Everything, your father is not making enough money and we will have to move soon which means that you will have to leave all your friends behind and go to a new school. Further I am terribly worried that we will not be able to put food on the table in a few months’ time. We will have to do something but neither your father nor I have the faintest idea what to do. We are doomed.”

And in short, that is why lying is socially acceptable.

As we progress in live, we comprehend that lying is easier than facing up to certain consequences. By age four (4) we have learned to lie. We do wrong and follow it with a lie. The odds are in our favour. Chances of anybody spotting our lie and exposing our deception are less than 50%. Why tell the truth if you can avoid the consequences? This rationalization we carry in our subconscious and more than often, we lie instinctively.

Even though nobody appreciates being lied to, everybody lies. We teach our children that giving a false compliment to gain report or telling a lie only to spare someone’s feelings or insure nobody gets hurt is quite alright. We will even give the excuse or justification that, “one shouldn’t be rude”. So therefore being honest is rude?

On the other hand, when we look at the psychology behind lying, a person who lies pathologically feels the urge to tell lies for no apparent reason or benefit whatsoever. People in this category often qualify for a diagnosis of a mental health disorder as designated by The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and Treatment Guidelines for Psychiatric Disorders. Common diagnoses associated with patients who consistently lie include:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Factitious Disorders

Paranoid Personality Disorder or some of the Dissociative Disorders may also result in a patient telling lies, but not realizing what he/she is saying is not the truth.

Furthermore, some people are led to lie as a result of their disorder even though the disorder itself does not directly cause the lying. For example, a person diagnosed with an eating disorder may lie about caloric intake in an attempt to avoid eating another meal.

As you can see the reasons for lying is endless and differs from person to person as does the frequency they are told.

Most lies aren’t meant to be hurtful to others; rather to obtain protection or immediate reward. These types of lies will include lying to obtain protection for ourselves, our interests, our image and our resources. Furthermore, lying to obtain reward might include lying to save face, get your way or make yourself feel better. Fear also plays a huge roll in why we lie. People lie as a result of fear of harm, fear of conflict, fear of punishment and fear of rejection or loss. And lastly lying also includes unselfish reasons people might have including pleasing others and gaining favour.As you can see the reasons for lying is endless and differs from person to person as does the frequency they are told.

When it comes to deception we have a weakness called TRUTH BIAS: we want to believe what we are told. Most of us can’t detect lies because we don’t want to. We want to believe he loves us; we want to believe that we are buying that car for a very special price. We collude with the person who lies to us, because we want to believe what they tell us. Another part of the deception puzzle is; while we are skilled in deceiving others, we have also evolved to lie to ourselves. The experts say our happiness, our survival depends on it.


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